Commentary

10.27.14

Shackling: Ohio Juvenile Courts Should Have Rules on Restraints

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Young person with hands cuffed behind back

This is the third in a series of posts on the topic of juvenile shackling.

This is Nate P. and I’m writing you this letter to let you know that cuffs and shackles make me feel like a criminal, not a “juvenile delinquent.” Shackles hurt and embarrass me most of the time. My opinion is that they are not necessary. When I wear cuffs and shackles I am judged immediately. I am writing this letter to you so that we can come up with a solution. What if one of your sons or daughters was shackled for a minor, non-violent crime? Think about it, we are kids.

Thank you for your time,
Nate P., Detained youth

There is a growing recognition that restraints are unnecessary and harmful for most people as indicated by Nate P. This is why juvenile courts in several states in the nation—excluding Ohio—have enacted standard policies that ban the automatic use of restraints on youth and limit the practice to those who present an imminent risk of flight or harm in court.

Read What is Shackling?, the first blog post in the series.

Read the second post, Worse Than Adults: The Shackling of Youth in Juvenile Court.

Read testimony from shackled youth.

As a result, several Ohio agencies have policies limiting the practice. The Ohio Departments of Mental Health and Addiction Services (ODMHAS), Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC), Developmental Disabilities (ODD), Health (ODH), Job and Family Services (ODJFS), and Education (ODE) have policies governing the use of restraints. While all different, these policies codify the right to be free from restraints, discourage the use, require justification of use, or limit use to crisis or imminent risk situations.

What do state departments say about restraints?

The ODMHAS codifies “the right to be free from restraint or seclusion unless there is an imminent risk of physical harm to self or others” for those in psychiatric hospitals.  It bans the use in mental health agencies “unless it is in response to a crisis situation, i.e., where there exists an imminent risk of physical harm to the individual or others, and no other safe and effective intervention is identified.”

The ODE’s policy indicates that “physical restraints may be used only if a student’s behavior posses an immediate risk of physical harm to the student or others and not other safe or effective intervention is available.”

Following a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice the Ohio Department of Youth Services agreed to “dramatically reduce, and eventually eliminate” the use of seclusion in Ohio’s youth detention facilities and that it would not substitute the use of restraints with seclusion.

If state agencies that work with youth and adults have policies limiting the use of restraints, shouldn’t juvenile courts have a standard policy, too?

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